Little and Often

1 Jul

Greetings folks. I think I need to start taking a ‘little and often’ approach to this blog rather than ignoring it for months, then writing an essay! It seems like lots has happened since I was last here. Thanks SO MUCH to everyone for your kind words and good wishes over the last wee while. It has made a world of difference, knowing that people care and are sending positive thoughts our way.

Let me begin by saying straight off that we can now say Andy HAD cancer, rather than HAS it!! Oh, the difference a letter makes!! His oncologist was happy to approve the use of the past tense in the appointment following his two chemotherapy sessions. The tumour is gone, the chemo was ‘precautionary’, and he doesn’t need further treatment. He will have careful monitoring for years of course – every two months for the first two years – but we are starting to be able to put this difficult time in the past. He is slowly but surely regaining his energy, the blinding headaches he had on waking every day are no more, and we are now at that delicate stage where Andy is able to do things again around the house, but he isn’t quite doing them ‘correctly’. Can I complain? (No, but, really, can I??!) Or do I suck it up? He’s just had cancer. He’s getting his energy back. He wants to be useful. He hangs out the washing but puts the pegs in the ‘wrong’ places. You know what I mean. Trousers by their shins?!! T-shirts by their shoulders!! Maddening stuff that makes me want to shout, then explain to him in a slow, rather loud voice, how exactly to hang things without them being totally misshapen. Really. I don’t know what was harder: doing everything myself, or having him just about back in action, but with a clause attached that means I have to be grateful, no matter what!

Baby Daniel is superb. He’s an eejit of course, not able to do anything for himself or appreciate yet that I know best, but, really, I could eat his cheeks. You’d think at six months he’d be a bit more self sufficient though. Sadly not. I’m still dressing him, changing his nappies, feeding him, telling him when he needs to go to sleep and when he has to wake up … He reserves a special kind of disdain for my efforts on the sleep front, which can be unfortunate indeed as missed naps often lead to grumpiness, irritation, crying or screaming (and that’s just me). He continues to be a ‘good’ baby for sleeping at night, but he’s just too interested in playing with his feet, ramming his hands into his mouth or (kind of) rolling to want to go to sleep during the day. Like all experts, he has put in the hours and hours of practice and now has a range of tricks he can fall back on in order to stave off the dreaded sleep whenever he feels his eyes drooping. Tactics include babbling, blowing raspberries, back arching, smiling (the worst! He draws you in to his ‘Shall NOT Sleep’ game) and of course the classic – crying – softly at first, then increasing in intensity, soon reaching fever pitch levels, until he is most definitely NO LONGER SLEEPY!!!

In exciting (only if you have a child, sorry, totally boring otherwise) news, he has teeth!! AT LAST!! After much gnashing of gums, two sharp, cutting edges have appeared in the last few days. These have coincided nicely with him turning six months and sitting in his high chair. So, we’ve started feeding him proper food (no longer just the boob juice). Thus far he’s had toast, cucumber, broccoli, tomato, lettuce, courgette and some apple. ‘Had’, by the way, means he’s picked it up, brought it to the general area of his mouth (sometimes even the mouth itself!), squished it, (perhaps) sucked it, examined it closely with furrowed brow, and then (inevitably) discarded it over the side of the high chair tray with no small amount of disdain. And so it is with baby-led weaning. No purees for us! Hooray!

In the spirit then of little and often, I’ll sign off now and go to bed. But, I shall endeavour to update shortly on the maternity pay debacle, let you all know how Daniel copes with more food stuffs, and ramble some more about general parenting stuff. Good night!



18 Apr

I like to think that this blog is read by more than 16 close family members and friends. In the spirit of maintaining the delusion, here are some things that you should know: The company that I worked for fired me when I was eight and a half months pregnant, leaving me in administrative limbo and (so far) unable to claim maternity benefit despite about a dozen appointments with the social security office. So I’m suing them. And Andy was diagnosed with testicular cancer when Daniel was three weeks old.

Here are some snapshots of life over the past couple of months.

Snapshot Number 1: Five Little Ducks

It seems that nursery rhymes these days are (have always been?) either scary (cradles falling from trees and so on) and/or sexist. Take Five Little Ducks. A seemingly innocent tale about baby ducks out for an afternoon swim with their mum. The sun is shining, the air is fresh and the rolling hills are green. But the little rascals disappear, one by one. Until Daddy Duck appears to call them home and order is restored. Mummy Duck is left feeling (I imagine) rather redundant and somewhat cheated; she made the effort to clothe and feed them, organise the transport for the day trip to the pond, ensure they were warm and dry (or wet, as the case may be) and entertain them. The ungrateful brats take to the pond and disappear over the horizon one at a time. Mummy Duck is frantic. Where could they be? The guilt! Are they safe? Suddenly Daddy Duck comes home from the office, gives a shout out ‘Quack, quack, quack, quack’ and ‘all five ducks come swimming back’ … from the nearby skate park where they’ve been hanging out with the cool older ducklings? How galling for Mummy Duck. A feeling to be endlessly repeated when she spends entire days devoted to their wellbeing, only for Daddy Duck to be rewarded with the smiles and giggles as he turns up for play time. Sigh.

Snapshot Number 2: The Day after Paddy’s Day

Today we found out that Andy will need chemotherapy. Two doses, three weeks apart. The oncologist tells us that he must first have some tests done, all routine, to make sure he’s fit enough for the treatment. She gives us some forms and tells us to make the appointments in person today. Unfortunately, for his cardiograph appointment, she writes the incorrect floor number on the form. We find ourselves walking up and down the same long corridor three times, fruitlessly looking for the room we need, knocking on the door of an empty office and phoning someone two floors away trying to explain who we’re looking for. He tells us to find his office and finally we do. I’m carrying Daniel in the sling, it’s really hot, I’m sweating and he’s grumpy because he is (tick the box) a) hungry, b) tired, c) in need of a nappy change, d) all of the above. This man redirects us to the correct room three floors down. Because the lifts take more than five minutes to arrive, we are using the stairs. After making the appointment Andy has to literally run off, as he’s still working and he has a class starting in 40 minutes, 45 minutes away. He hasn’t eaten since breakfast and he’s had some blood taken. I feel really bad for him. I find a toilet and end up having to change Daniel on the floor. He has leaked into his trousers and there is no replacement in the changing bag that Andy prepared (now I want to be really angry at Andy, but he has cancer so I can’t.) As it’s really hot anyway I decide to just leave the trousers off. There is no soap so I use the hand sanitiser I have with me. I walk down the stairs and to the train platform. It’s incredibly windy there and Daniel starts to wail. He’s never had much interest in taking a soother and prefers to suck on one of our fingers for a few minutes if he’s looking for comfort. I try this but he doesn’t want to, probably because it tastes like nail varnish remover from the hand sanitiser. I sit down on some steps and try to console him. He’s now screaming so much that he’s turning various shades of purple and red. About 60 people on the platform are looking at me with an about even mix of pity (I have children, I know what it’s like) and scorn (why can’t you shut up your screaming brat). Nothing I can do makes Daniel stop crying and there is no sign of the train. I think back to this morning’s appointment and an unreal sense of dread creeps over me again. Andy has cancer and he needs chemotherapy. I too start to cry.

Snapshot Number 3: The Dream Feed

Location: Bedroom

Time: 2:05am

The scene: baby gently stirring

Characters: Mom and baby

Scene I: Baby stirs. Mom decides to pre-empt any crying by doing a ‘dream feed’ i.e. plucking baby from cot while only semi-awake, sticking a boob in his mouth and sitting for 15 minutes while he eats and sleeps at the same time. Baby is plonked back in the cot while Mom nips to the bathroom. She arrives back in the room to the sound of an explosive poo. Nooooooooo! Pooing is NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN with dream feeds. Cue nappy change.

Scene 2: Baby absolutely full of life on the changing table, smiling, making eye contact, cooing and generally showing all signs of wanting to play.

Scene 3: Baby plonked back in cot while Mom washes hands. Returns to room to baby crying, outraged at sense of starvation he feels. It has been absolutely HOURS since he has been fed. What kind of torture is this, he thinks.

Following dialogue ensues:

Baby: Feed me.

Mom: Oh honey, I fed you already, just a few minutes ago.

Baby: Bullshit. Feed me now.

Mom: Honestly sweetheart I did. It was a dream feed you see. You didn’t even wake up. If you think about it carefully you will realise that your tummy is full, all your needs are satisfied, and you’ll drop back to sleep right now.


Mom: (Sighing) Okay then, relax. You win.

Scene 4: Baby feeds for twenty minutes. Mom tries to stay awake by playing Candy Crush on phone (ensuring blinding orange glow is well hidden from baby’s eyes so as not to wake him up further). After what seems like HOURS, pops baby back in cot. Just settling down to sleep when noise of explosive poo number two rocks the room. Was there ever a more dispiriting sound heard at 3.10am? Sigh. Repeat changing table scenario. Sleep, eventually, for just over three hours. Sigh.

Here’s my Life in Numbers This Week from two weeks ago, when I started this entry:

Glasses of wine drunk: 4.5 (note the decimal point, that’s not 45, 45 is just a fantasy, a delicious memory of times gone by)

Number of times I’ve thought about living on an island in the Caribbean (again!), doing 20 cent tequila shots, diving every day, teaching yoga and never imaging that this would be my reality: at least three

How long the Five Little Ducks song has been on replay in my head: endless, endless, endless hours

Time I’ve had to myself: Does sitting on the bidet while brushing my teeth count? If so, two minutes x 3. (Note: I’ve brushed my teeth more than three times, I just haven’t always had the time to sit on the bidet while doing it. Sometimes I’m tidying away clothes/dishes at the same time.) Also, I’m not actually using the bidet … that would be multitasking on a whole different level!!!

Number of appointments I’ve had in both the social security and employment offices to try to sort out my maternity pay: three

Likelihood of receiving said maternity pay: slim to none

Number of times I’ve wanted to walk into the offices of the company that ended my contract because they didn’t want to bother paying me maternity leave, and thus leaving me in administrative limbo and without maternity pay: Just once. Every few hours, that is.

Number of doctor’s appointments that Andy has had: four

Three things that baby does that we find cute (WARNING: indulgent parent segment):

1. We use a square of cotton to cover Daniel’s baby bits when changing his nappy to avoid a fountain of pee hitting us in the face. His latest trick is to wait until you’re least expecting it, then grab the cotton cloth, whip it away, and pee frantically for all he’s worth, ensuring the spray covers as wide an area as possible. He follows this up with a cute, butter wouldn’t melt, smile. What can you do?

2. He’s becoming much more interactive, batting at toys and grabbing at things, sometimes trying to put them in his mouth.

3. He laughs! Oh my god, he laughs! He has tickles, and when you find them, or when you pull funny faces, he is delighted! His laughter is so pure, so genuine. It makes me want to make him happy all the time so that I can hear it again and again. (His) Laughter is indeed healing (for me).

Andy has already had the first of his two chemotherapy sessions. Only one more to go, and then hopefully we can start to put this difficult time behind us. Someone once said to me, years ago, that having a baby is really rewarding, but it’s also the most difficult thing you can do too. I honestly feel that if having a newborn was all that we had to cope with at the moment, then life would be very simple indeed.

A request: In the spirit of continuing my delusion that you’re reading this and we’re not actually related, do please add any comments below rather than on Facebook. Cheers!

Finally, I feel it’s only right to share the pain. Here’s a link to Five Little Ducks!





A Labour of Love

8 Mar

Well, here we are, baby in arms and two months have already passed. Where to begin? First let me set the scene. It’s 7.44am and I’ve already changed baby’s nappy twice, fed him once, had breakfast and put on a load of washing. He’s currently having his post-brekkie-part-one nap and usually I do the same, but this is one of my ‘windows’ (of which there are usually three in a good day) when I can GET STUFF DONE!!

Rewinding to December 29th (which was indeed the original due date I was given!) and contractions started at 2am. Just so you know in advance, I’m not going to go in to ALL the gory details. I do however want to convey the sense of outrage I felt for the first 48 hours after Daniel (for that is his name!) was born, about how utterly awful labour actually is, about how nobody really says as much, and why I think that is.   

My contractions weren’t too bad to start with, but were pretty regular from the beginning, about four minutes apart. After a few hours at home, we hopped in a taxi and headed to the hospital. I was examined and found not to be dilated one single little bit. Hmmm. After about three hours of monitoring (a little belt around my ginormous tummy hooked up to a machine plotting peaks and troughs on a graph) I was again examined and nothing had changed, although they did indeed confirm that I was having strong contractions. Gosh, thanks for that breaking news. Back in the taxi and home then, where I had some breakfast (it’s 8am), had a shower and tried to get some sleep. I utterly failed in this of course as the contractions were really quite strong, like some horrible, grinding, squeezing around my middle, every few minutes. I stuck it for as long as I could and then we called another taxi.

I was back at the hospital 12 hours after contractions had begun, only to be told that I still wasn’t in ‘active labour’ as I was only about 1cm dilated. EXCUSE ME?! Is this some kind of joke? Because it feels pretty ‘active’ to me! Well, more monitoring, and after two and a half hours a midwife has a chat with us and explains that I could go home again, or they could take me off the monitor and I could have a walk around the hospital for a couple of hours to see how things progressed before going back to them for another examination. They felt it wouldn’t be long more until I reached the magic number (3cm, which meant admission and PAIN RELIEF!).

I most definitely did not want to leave the hospital (again!) so I hung around, moaning like some kind of dying animal every few minutes until two hours had slowing ticked by. When I was examined this time, they decided to admit me, as I was ‘more or less’ 3cm. FINALLY!

We were brought to a private birthing room with an en suite bathroom and shower. I was offered a pilates ball to bounce around on and was encouraged to shower as the water pressure could ease the pain. As I’d tried both of these at home to no avail, I opted to go straight for the gas and air. 

For five hours I had two to three minutes at a time of wonderful, hallucinating (practically) pain-free bliss, punctuated by crushing, scream-inducing agony as the contraction peaked and the gas and air wasn’t strong enough to block it. During the (relatively, you understand) pain-free minutes, I floated along in my own little world, sucking like mad on the ‘regulator’ and imagining I was back in Honduras, diving and carefree. The gas and air was for me exactly like the effects of nitrogen narcosis when SCUBA diving. A kind of amazing pressure all over, a loud rushing sound in my ears, a woolly tongue, lots of fish swimming around … okay, not the last one, but apart from that, pretty much exactly. I also spoke to Andy in dive signals, frantically using the hand cutting across my throat ‘out of air’ sign when I reached the end of the first tank. My eyes were starting to bulge, I couldn’t breathe, I felt I couldn’t hold out much longer, until Andy calmly pointed out that I could just take the thing out of my mouth and breathe normal air. Oh yeah. Silly me.

After five hours of floating along, sometimes throwing up and sometimes drifting into sleep, I decided to have an epidural. For the following 18 hours (yes, it’s Monday 30th now, a whole day later) I was lying down hooked up to various drips in the vain hope that labour would actually progress. I limped along to just about 7cm dilated (ten being the next magic milestone number when you get to push the little person out of you!) when they gently told me that I’d have to have a caesarean, as they didn’t want to wait any longer. Everyone was so lovely, and I think they really felt a bit sorry for me by now as I’d been there long enough to see several shift changes. 

But all of a sudden things happened very quickly. I was injected with various things, Andy was given a gown and mask to don, I was wheeled to the theatre and once they’d started and they knew everything was okay, he was allowed in too. In an incredibly short time, someone placed a crying baby on my chest and all the medical staff in the room starting saying ‘congratulations’ and ‘ay, que grande!’ (‘oh, how big!!’) and calling him ‘gordito’, little fatty!!

You’d think that being pregnant for 40 weeks, and being in labour for 42 hours, would have prepared me somewhat for the moment, but it didn’t come close. My body went into a kind of shock, a normal reaction to the surgery and the drugs I was told, and I started to shake uncontrollably. ‘Little fatty’ was really heavy and was lying on my lungs, I couldn’t really breathe properly and I honestly felt quite relieved when someone (me? A midwife?) suggested that Andy hold the baby for a bit when we got back to the birthing room. So, I was lying on the bed, Andy had a baby in his arms (where did he come from?!) and then everyone just left us there. For AGES! I mean, we didn’t know what we were doing. And only one of us could move! Okay, it wasn’t ages, but it did feel like it. By the time they returned I could move my legs again, the shaking had stopped, and I was ready for some more skin-to-skin contact with the little man.

Next we were moved to the part of the hospital with the crying newborns and deposited in our room (again private, with an en suite and a sofa for Andy to sleep on. This is a hospital in the public health system in Spain by the way.). A couple of midwives came in, put a nappy on Daniel, showed me how to hold him on my belly so he’d find my boob all by himself (which he did!), demonstrated how to burp him, and again left us. It was crazy!! Why were all these medical professionals leaving us all the time?! Didn’t they realise that we actually didn’t have a clue what we were doing?!! We just kept looking at each other, and then looking at the baby, and the waves of disbelief didn’t seem to recede one little bit. After a while (some hours?) Andy changed the baby’s nappy, muttering angrily that he didn’t know what he was doing and that someone should have been there to show us. Just as he was finishing up, a young nurse came in (in fact they all looked no more than 22) and praised him for the great job he’d done.

I think for me the shock continued into the next 48 hours. I hadn’t slept in two days, and during the first night (Daniel was born at 8.30pm) I only managed to drift off for about half an hour, in five and ten minute snatches. My body ached, I couldn’t stand up straight, I kept having flashbacks to being on the gas and sobbing about various dead relatives (another side effect, along with the diving memories!). And on top of this, there was a baby there, and it seemed like he was dependent on us for, well, his life?!! Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know this little crying person. Luckily he was feeding well, but I had no concept of how relentless it would be. Someone should have said ‘you know, little babies eat ALL THE TIME in the beginning’. How often I thought ‘he can’t still be hungry, why is he crying now?!’. But, on reflection, he was. His tummy was the size of a walnut, and sucking was tiring him out. So he’d feed, fall asleep for 20 minutes, and then wake up in tears. If I’d only known it would have been easier, mentally at least! And, like I said, I didn’t KNOW him! Of course I cared about him on some level, as well as actually caring FOR him, but there wasn’t this huge connection that I believe some people feel instantly.

The first two days passed like that. And then something happened on the morning of the third day. I kissed the top of his head, just like I’d done countless times since he’d been born, and for the first time, he smelled. Not really of anything, just himself, I suppose. And then I knew. I knew I’d do anything for him. I’d literally die for him. I’d quite probably kill for him. And then it became clear. The reason that women, for the most part, don’t talk at length about the trauma of labour. Because that’s not the important part of the story. The important part is that there’s a new life in your life, and your perspective totally changes. He becomes what’s important, and his very immediate needs force you to focus on the present, and the future. And it’s so difficult to know what that future will be like. Leaving the hospital, and coming back to our flat as a family of three rather than just a couple seemed so surreal. Just before we opened the door to our apartment, Andy and I looked at each other and I said ‘what have we done?!’. It was terrifying! But we were both smiling.

More on life with a newborn in the next blog entry … meanwhile, some baby stats:

Number of days passed since starting this entry: two and a half

Number of nappies changed (by me): about 20

Number of ironic nappy changes*: two

Length of time a baby will happily play in a bouncer: precisely the length of time it takes to have a shower. Minus two minutes.

Number of times baby has peed on me in the last week: only one! (Getting better at employing the ‘pee guard’, a square of fabric placed on his little boy bits to block pee spouts.)

Number of times baby has woken up more than once in the night since we got home from hospital: twice. I know, very lucky.

*An ironic nappy change (copyright Andy!) is when you change a nappy, and it’s not dirty, and you’re delighted. And then four and a half minutes later there is a massive poo explosion, followed by baby’s zen-like calm expression. Most disheartening.



Names and Numbers

22 Dec

Hello folks. Yes, indeed, I’m still pregnant, thanks for asking. The baby is now the size of, well, a baby. If you were to hold him in your arms today you’d see that he is a fully formed baby, it’s just that he happens to still be inside me. You might say, ‘Wow, Máiréad, isn’t he lovely?! And just the size of a baby, as opposed to a water melon or a butternut squash or some such vegetable’. And I might answer ‘I know, isn’t it amazing?! And to think that I just felt a little twinge and I sneezed and out he popped!’, and you would say ‘Indeed, how wonderful. And I’m sure he’ll be a great sleeper and feeder too’ (look, just go with it, this is my fantasy conversation okay?!) and I would respond ‘Why, I have no doubt at all. I feel so rested and relaxed and that is all bound to happen…’. Yes, indeedy. Erm, where was I? Ah, yes, still pregnant.

There was some confusion over my due dates you see. I’ve been under the impression since about May that my due date was Christmas Eve. There was even a brief period in early December when I thought it might have been brought forward to 16th. Unfortunately I made the mistake of sharing this information and am now in the rather dull position of having to update everyone with the fact that there is no baby yet, and moreover that I’m not even overdue yet. The actual due date is much closer to the turn of the year in fact (let’s not be too specific, because, really, who is to say?!), and if you factor in ten or so days on top of that, well there might not be a baby until mid-January. So, I’m not even impatient or fed up or anxiously waiting yet. I’m just hanging out at home, enjoying finally not being at work any more and making/eating delicious Christmas-themed lunches and dinners (Brie and cranberry filo parcels yesterday courtesy of Andy, yum!).

Well, that’s the pregnancy update. Now a wee word about names. My own that is, not the baby’s, as we’re waiting until we meet him before deciding on that one (though Euclid is still a strong contender, don’t you think?!). I feel given the fact that I’m really, really pregnant and therefore people can assign the forthcoming mini rant to ‘hormones’, that now is as good a time as any…

My name is my name. I got married and my name remained my name. I don’t know how else to explain this. Is it a difficult concept? I’m not Mrs Andy Anything. I wasn’t being whimsical or difficult or outrageous or new-age and it isn’t something that I’m planning on changing my mind about. This is because I think the alternative, that I ‘take’ my husband’s name, is an old-fashioned, even backwards and utterly pointless ‘tradition’ that makes no sense to me. And I’ve always thought this. In conversation with friends I have tried to convince myself to be open-minded and respectful, especially if they have gone down that path, and no doubt if pressed I could waffle on about true feminism meaning choice blah blah blah but in this situation I don’t believe that. Changing your name to your husband’s name when you get married is just incomprehensible to me. Luckily we now happen to be living in a country where everyone else also thinks that (and that wasn’t even what brought us here, it was the sunshine and the cheap red wine, but, hey, what a wonderful bonus!). The baby will therefore have both of our surnames, Andy’s first and then mine. I fully realise that for some people this fact will simply be ignored, or accepted in theory but in practice forgotten. What can you do? Euclid will just have to correct people when he’s old enough, and he’ll be able to do it in two different languages too. How cool is that?!

Well, that’s all for now folks. See you on the other side of the birth!

PS Nothing happened while writing this entry. I’m still pregnant. Thanks for asking though.

My baby, the egomaniac

1 Dec

Hello folks, it’s been a while since I’ve updated you on the belly status. Well, against all my expectations, it continues to grow. By now I’ve completely lost track of the vegetables that the baby has been compared to on various pregnancy forums as the weeks pass. I stopped paying attention somewhere around cabbage. At the moment he seems to me more like a watermelon. A watermelon that sometimes has hiccoughs and kicks me in the ribs and does little Mexican waves. He also does the happy croissant dance, the joyful Pringles jig, the fabulous orange juice foxtrot and lots more besides.

I had a scan last week, my fifth so far (hooray for the wonderful Spanish public health system!), and I found out that the baby’s head is HUGE. That’s right everyone, just what a pregnant woman wants to hear. Your baby has a massive head! Two and a half weeks bigger than expected, and his tummy is a week bigger. Of course it may just be a random growth spurt, perhaps it’s ironed itself out already, but it’s not exactly a comforting thought. Rather disappointingly this in no way means that he’s likely to arrive sooner, just that when he does he’ll be massive. Wonderful.

So the hospital bag is packed, the cloth nappies are pre-washed and ready to go, as are the sleep suits and vests and rompers and gro-bags etc. etc. (I’m still not entirely sure I know the difference between all of these and when he’s supposed to wear what, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.)

We’re almost finished with our antenatal classes, just one more to go. These have been great for the vocabulary let me tell you. I know things in Spanish that I wouldn’t have known before in English. From the point of view of providing information, there have been useful little snippets, for example how to sort out the paperwork to register the birth. But by far the most eye-opening, and in my opinion TOTALLY UNNECESSARY bit came when we watched a three minute DVD of SOMEONE GIVING BIRTH!!! Who needs to see this?! Nobody, I tell you, NOBODY!! If you were going to have horrible, nasty, bloody, painful root canal treatment would you think to yourself before the appointment, ‘You know what? I simply must watch a CLOSE UP video on a HUGE screen of the procedure, just so I’ll know what to expect!’. Err, I don’t think so. The images are seared on to the insides of my eyelids. I can still see the baby’s tormented grey-purple face as it squeezes out what is really a very small space. (And this baby’s head looked normal—sized!) Too much information people!!

Euclid the cheese thief

9 Oct

What’s happening with the belly: When I started writing this entry last week, the baby was the size of a large aubergine. I dread to think what he’s since grown into … Are aubergines bigger than turnips (size of baby at 27 weeks!)? I mean, I suppose they can be … if you had to choose, which one would you rather give birth to? It’s one to ponder. I’ve been thinking a bit about the film Alien lately. That part where Sigourney Weaver looks in horror at something crawling around under her belly. I know how she felt! Andy found a video online of a very pregnant lady’s belly moving up and down and sideways as the baby inside pushed and poked and looked like it was trying to make a break for it out the bellybutton. I almost threw up. I’m still waiting for that maternal gene/instinct thing to kick in where I’ll find these things delightful. Must keep searching.

Spanish homework: ¿Es el corte tardío del cordón umbilical beneficioso? = Is delayed cord clamping beneficial? Oh yes, time to get serious folks.

I had a lovely visit from three friends from Edinburgh last weekend. They repeatedly told me that my ass is not in fact the size of Malta and that they’d had the impression from reading this that I was ginormous. Apparently I’m just normally pregnant. I was back at the doctor for my blood test results this week and there was no reprimand, so maybe I just need to adjust to the fact that this is the one time when it’s okay that I can’t see my own toes.

Speaking of adjusting, I was thinking about the baby a few days ago (I do this occasionally). Andy and I were sitting in companionable silence, each playing solitaire on our mobiles (I think I’ve finally fallen out of love with Candy Crush, level 208 is just impossible, yet too boring to make me want to complete it). Neither of us had spoken for ages, and I was thinking how lovely it was. Then it occurred to me that soon there would be a baby living with us as well. I had the uncomfortable thought that it will be like having a new flatmate! I’ve had some psycho flatmates in my day, what if wee Euclid turns out to be like that nutter from Newcastle who fought with us about keeping a water jug in the fridge?! What if he uses all the hot water in the morning? Or insists on folding the tea-towels in a certain way? What if he tries to steal my cheese?!! I suppose I’m getting carried away, it will be ages before he can open our wonky fridge door (which fell off twice this weekend). But, still. It was a sobering thought. It’s like we’re inviting someone into our home and we’ve never met them before and we have no idea of their personality and we can’t get references from anyone. Doesn’t it sound to you like the kind of thing nobody in their right mind would do?!

Having your cake and not eating it …

19 Sep

What’s happening on the inside: the baby’s the size of a medium to large turnip. I’m refusing to think about labour and giving birth to something that’s equal in size to something you can plausibly carve into a lantern.

What’s happening on the outside: I went for a swim on Monday. As I got in to the pool, it seemed to me that the water slapped up roughly against all four sides and that the kids having their swimming lesson were briefly but dangerously bobbed about. I was in the slow lane. To say that I’ve lost my streamlining is an understatement. Can I really continue to get wider for the next three months?!

Spanish homework: una tarta = cake in Spanish, but un gâteau = cake in French. Un gato in Spanish is a cat (same pronunciation). I may have said something like ‘Andy made a cat cheese cake this week, it was delicious’. Oops.

I went to a yoga class yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve done any yoga since becoming pregnant. As someone who ultimately wants to teach yoga, I know that’s not really good enough, so I thought it was time to get back on the mat. For those of you that know the difference, it was a Sivananda class i.e. hatha style with a heavy emphasis on breathing, shoulder rolling, neck lengthening and lying down between brief interludes of ever-so-gently stretching various muscles. After ten minutes the teacher came over, tapped me on the shoulder and told me I should be upstairs in the pregnancy class! I’d thought I was! As I’m familiar with the routine I’d just gone in, closed my eyes and gotten on with it, totally missing the fact that not only were the other women not pregnant, but there was a fair scattering of men too! Felt a bit silly.

I found the ladies upstairs and realised the scene was quite different. There was even more breathing and even less moving. But, strangely, I was okay with that. Being pregnant has given me a whole new appreciation of how difficult it is for ‘the larger lady’ to perform the most basic of tasks. Bending over is HARD WORK. Doing a shoulder stand is now near impossible. It’s not the actual flexibility I’m missing (I can still get my palms flat on the ground when I bend to touch my toes, hooray!), it’s the fact that the bump quickly starts to cut off my oxygen supply! I literally can’t breathe, and as yoga (not to mention life!) is all about the breath, that’s no small disadvantage. I found myself panting slightly as I manoeuvred my foot around my belly. Perhaps this is done on purpose, as practice for labour?! Either way, it’s a great incentive not to become a permanent fattie.

Spanish medical professionals are quite, let’s say, brusque, and one of my students who is a doctor told me several months ago that the gynaecologist will have no hesitation in putting me on a diet if it looks like I’m gaining weight too quickly. At my last appointment she did say I need to make sure I go for a walk every day for half an hour, so I’m rather dreading the scales at my 28 week consultation. At the beginning of the pregnancy I read with a mixture of disbelief and horror that it’s ‘normal’ to gain between eight and 12 kilos. Alas, as the weeks go by, the seemingly impossible looks all too achievable. Perhaps I should tell Andy to lay off the baking for a while. There are some goals that you just don’t ever want to reach!

Hippy Mommies

10 Sep

This week I came across a group in one of the pregnancy forums called ‘Hippy Happy Mommies’ or ‘Happy Hippy Mums’ or ‘Happy Clappy Hippy Mams’ … something like that. Anyway, believing my hippy credentials to be as solid as the next mother-to-be’s, I decided to check out the group (I’m veggie, I’ve lived in an ashram, bummed around India for nine months, there’s the whole Ganesha tattoo/yoga thing … just saying, lots of hippy points scored right there … ). 

That being said, I just couldn’t quite get on board with the ‘baby/toddler decides everything’ ethos of the hippy moms. Baby/toddler decides when to feed, when to wean, when to sleep, when to potty train … and the group members were also against any form of trying to impose some sort of (shudder!) ‘routine’ through controlled crying or the like. Maybe this points to glaring chinks in the hippy armour (and don’t get me started on how much I’m in favour of pain relief during labour!!), but I do plan on being the parent in this parent-baby relationship!

Those of you who are already parents may very well be smugly shaking your heads and thinking ‘she’ll learn’, and, well, maybe I will, but the fact is that I at least plan to start out by being the one who calls the shots, of course in a ‘let’s see what happens and go with the flow’ kind of way. I read an article eons ago which gave me great hope. This was during that time (that actually lasted for decades) when I didn’t ever imagine that I’d have a child, because I just couldn’t envisage ever giving up my own life to be at the beck and call of another to such a degree. It was by a journalist and mother to a toddler who was confounded by the fact that someone in her child’s playgroup was moaning because their darling one had ‘insisted’ on getting trainers that not only lit up, but made an irritating jingling sound when she ran around. The parents’ reaction to demands for said loud trainers was ‘oh well, what could we do?’ even though they were being driven mad by the noise. The journalist’s thoughts echoed my own, and it seemed such an obvious solution … couldn’t they simply have not bought them?! The writer’s point was that you are the parent, the one with the decision-making power, and you owe it to yourself and your own sanity (and indeed to your child too!) to at least try to keep that in mind.   

Spanish homework: No!! No puedes comprar esos zapatos! = No!! You can’t buy those shoes! (Come on, repeat it after me, and be strong!)

What’s happening on the inside: he’s opened his eyes for the first time, and he’ll soon start blinking. (Meanwhile, does anyone know if the eyelids just stay open … bit creepy, no?!)

What’s happening on the outside: if I lean back at a certain angle, I can just about balance a small plate on my bump. Last week I was pondering how guys with beer bellies reached their toenails. Now I’m wondering about the bikini line … answers on a postcard please …

Exciting update on the friends front: We may have found some!! We went out for dinner on Friday with actual Spanish people!! They are a lovely couple, we spoke Spanish and English and they made lots of references to their friend from Cambridge, or their Scottish friend, or the guy they’re friends with from South Korea. Basically it looks like they like folk from all over and have offered to show us around and introduce us to other real life Spaniards!! Watch this space! 

Spoiler Alert! It’s a …

1 Sep

Fear of the week: That someone will post something on facetube about who has been eliminated from The Great British Bake Off! We’re watching it online a day or two after it’s aired so I’m anxious to avoid all knowledge of it until we see the latest episode! Can’t be bothered with pregnancy-related fears anymore after weeks of reading the most irrational, stupid concerns on pregnancy forums. I pity the babies of many of these women.  

Spanish homework: What?! It’s the summer hols man, forget homework!

What’s happening on the inside: the baby’s the size of a large mango now. With all these fruit and veg-related analogies, I’m worried I might want to actually eat the baby when I see it!

What’s happening on the outside: it’s becoming more difficult to paint my toe nails. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about fat folk and how they manage, especially men with beer bellies. Who paints the toe nails of all those beer-bellied men?!

It’s been a few weeks of highs and lows. We went to Ireland for a week and had a wonderful time catching up with family and friends. I gave Andy a bit of a walking tour of Dublin, which basically consisted of pointing out pub after pub and saying either ‘they serve great Guinness there’ or ‘Paddy Kavanagh/James Joyce/Brendan Behan etc etc wrote such-and-such there’. On reflection I realise that all my college drinking haunts were old man’s pubs. Quite delighted about that.

There was a bit of a low on returning to Madrid and remembering that we still don’t have any friends here. This was rather compounded by the discovery one night that my ankles were indeed swollen!!! I can’t begin to convey the (unreasonable?) distress this caused me. I mean, obviously I knew it was a possibility (it being the blog name and all that!), but I was just so … disappointed. The next day they were back to their shapely selves and there (thankfully!) hasn’t been a repeat performance but, still, it makes me realise that apart from the whole wanting to throw up for four months thing, my pregnancy has been blissfully trouble free.

Continuing with the positive vibes, we’ve also been decorating, and gone is the cold blue in our bedroom, and the lurid orange in the living room and spare room (which I’m trying to call ‘the nursery’, but I need more practice for it not to sound odd), to be replaced by calming, neutral cream. Oh, alright, I’m not ashamed, call it magnolia if you will. I tried to explain to the paint guy that the colours were different here; they had bucket-loads of burnt oranges, dusky reds, powdery blues, and just one lonely, plain cream. In Scotland you could easily encounter 15 versions of white, in the form of oats, timeless, eggshell, linen, stone and so on. But not here. The shelves looked more like an array of bleached villa walls from the south of Spain. Which is absolutely fine if you’re painting villa walls in the south of Spain. But for a living room in a flat in Madrid, hmmm, not so much. ‘Magnolia’ all the way for us.

And so to the spoiler alert … I was in a lift the other day with two women, one of whom had a little girl in a pram. They were clearly strangers but started chatting about the girl, then one of them looked at me, pointed to my tummy and said ‘You’re having a boy’. ‘You’re right’ I answered. She said she knew because of the shape of my belly, kind of ‘pointy’. I knew she was right because of the scan we had last week. A boy then. All suggestions for baby names will be considered. Top of the list so far, from my sister, is Euclid, after the mathematician who may or may not have actually existed. Sounded strange at first, but it’s just started to roll off the tongue …! 

A Perfect Day

11 Aug

Fear of the week: I saw a pregnant woman at the swimming pool this week. She was wearing a bikini, and the rest of her body was ‘normal’ size. But the bump. OH MY GOD, the BUMP! It extended in front of her in an almost rectangular shape. About the size of a shopping basket. She didn’t just look pregnant, she looked ALIEN. Is this what’s in store? I’m hoping she was having triplets. Seriously, never seen anything like it.

Spanish homework: una lechuza = barn owl, and una varita = magic wand (I’m reading The Philosopher’s Stone in español!)

What’s happening on the inside: the baby’s the size of a large banana. I’m being kicked from the inside by something the size of a large banana. It’s too weird.

What’s happening on the outside: My nails are in great shape.

I’ve been losing track of the days and having long lie-ins since we stopped teaching, but on Saturday I decided it was time to be a bit more active, so I set the alarm and after a delicious early breakfast I headed in to town to meet up with two girls that I’d been in contact with online through a pregnancy forum. We spent a lovely morning together sharing our pregnancy experiences so far, and in the afternoon I went for a swim. When I got home Andy had made cheese scones and we got stuck in to them. It was a perfect day.

Sigh. The entire previous paragraph was a lie I’m afraid. Well, let’s be kind and call it a fantasy rather than a lie. Saturday was terrible! I got up late and moped around the flat for the entire day. My world has shrunk to journeying between the kitchen, sofa and bathroom and I really felt in a rut. I still don’t have any friends in Madrid, much less pregnant ones! I realise that I need to make more of an effort to get out and about … there are actually lots of opportunities to do language exchanges and meet people so a bit of motivation is all that’s lacking. And it’s not entirely hopeless, as I am actually in touch with a couple of girls on a pregnancy forum. Settling in to a new place always takes time, and I guess feeling like throwing up every day for 10 weeks put any socialising on hold. But, I’m feeling more hopeful today, and even made it out of the flat too, hooray!

Also, Andy did actually make cheese scones this week, so it wasn’t an entire fabrication!